‘Tis the Season for Ticks

Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases in Pets

With the coming of spring and then summer, pet owners are bracing for “tick season.” This is the time of year when nasty little blood sucking ticks are out in force, and if you have ever walked your dog in the woodlands, or have an outside cat, chances are they will come back with ticks.

So, in preparation for tick season, here is the low down on one of the most unsavory pests you’ll ever come across.

What are Ticks?

A tick is a member of the arthropod family, which means they have exoskeletons and jointed legs. Although related to insects and spiders, they are neither. They belong to the family of mites, which are free living Arachnida that eat organic material.

Most mites are not parasites, but ticks certainly are. They must have a blood meal in order to reproduce, and this act of drinking blood is called engorging. As they fill up with blood, their bodies literally engorge to a size 5 or 6 times there normal size; common ticks that may be found on cats and dogs may look like a pumpkin or watermelon seed when fully engorged.

What is Their Lifecycle?

After a blood meal, an adult tick will lay eggs and die. The eggs laid are generally near where the tick has fallen off its host, and places where animals bed down or birds nests are prime egg laying areas.

When the baby ticks hatch they are called larvae, and they must have a blood meal to morph into the next stage of life called a nymph. Generally just one meal is enough, the larvae will consume this meal over the winter, and come the next spring, it will have grown into a nymph.

A nymph is a smaller version of an adult and will need another blood meal to gain adulthood. Once it becomes an adult, it will mate, produce and lay eggs, then die. From here the cycle begins again.

What Tick-borne Illnesses can they Transfer to Cats and Dogs?

Ticks are one of the greatest carriers of disease for both humans and pets, and many illnesses that affect your pet may also affect you. Here is a list of some of the most common types of tick-borne diseases to watch for and how they are treated:

  • Lyme Disease — The #1 and most notorious of the tick-borne illnesses, Lyme Disease affects dogs, cats and humans. Generally, a tick must stay attached for up to 48 hours before infection will occur, so the best protection is to check and remove ticks before they engorge. Lyme Disease is carried by “deer ticks,” a smaller tick with a black shield on its back. Symptoms include lameness, appetite suppression, and fever. Antibiotics are used to treat it, and there is a vaccination for dogs, but not for cats.
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever — Yes, this fairly common disease is usually found in the west and Midwest, and it takes about 5 hours of engorging to be fully transmitted. Many of the symptoms are the same as Lyme Disease, so it may be diagnosed as that. In fact, the same type of treatment, with antibiotics, will also cure Spotted Fever, but there is no vaccine.
  • Anaplasmosis — Deer ticks and western black legged ticks carry this disease, and you may not see any symptoms for over 2 weeks after being bitten. Both cats and dogs are susceptible, and you’ll notice pain in the joints, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and possible nervous system damage. Oral antibiotics are given for up to a month, but in severe cases, antibiotics can be given intravenously.
  • Tick Paralysis — Caused by toxic tick secretions, this almost borders on an allergic reaction. The hind legs will begin to go limp, followed by the front legs, and then difficulty in breathing may occur. Generally a dog will recover on its own, but an anti-toxin can be given if the symptoms are severe. Cats don’t seem to be affected by this.
  • Tularemia, also known as Rabbit Fever — This is a bacterial infection that affects both cats and dogs; canines will have milder symptoms of reduced appetite, low fever and depression. Cats will have higher fevers, serious depression and may stop eating entirely. Antibiotics are in order and may be administered for as long as a month.
  • American Canine Hepatozoonosis — This disease is actually contracted by a dog ingesting a tick through regular grooming or eating an infected tick. The Gulf Coast Tick is the carrier, and this disease is primarily found in the south central and south eastern United States. A severe infection will result, and symptoms include high fever, stiffness, pain when moving, a complete loss of appetite and the weight loss that accompanies it. Eye discharge is common and muscle wasting becomes apparent, particularly around the head and neck area. Treatment is done with anti-parasitic, anti-inflammatory and antibiotic medicine. It may last for several years before a full and complete recovery, and relapses are common.

How to Spot Ticks on Pets?

If you have a lighter colored pet, spotting ticks will be easier. Darker ticks will stand out faster after a walk or being outside, and you may be able to pick them or brush them off before they begin to engorge.

For most of us, however, running our hands over the body of your dog or cat will reveal lumps or bumps that are out of place. Upon closer inspection, you may find a tick beginning to feed or perhaps find one that has already engorged. Concentrate on the area around the head and neck, as ticks will generally congregate there.

Tick Removal

The easiest and quickest way to remove ticks is to give your pets a thorough brushing after a walk or having been outside for an extended period of time. You’ll be able to remove them before they become attached, and save yourself from having to pull them directly off your pet’s skin.

If a tick is attached, you can grasp it up around the head area, then twist and pull. Pet shops sell a forked device that makes this procedure much easier. Just hook the fork between head and body, pull and twist. The tick will pop off.  Just be careful not to grasp the ticks body and squeeze. You may push infected blood back into your pet and complicate matters by doing so.

Tick Prevention for Dogs and Cats

There are many veterinarian and aftermarket ways to prevent ticks from attaching to your dog. Tick collars are one of the most common, and once placed around the neck on your dog or cat, they either give off a repelling gas that ticks don’t like, they secrete an insecticide that is spread by a pet’s natural oils, or both.

Tick repellents are generally made of natural oils that are sprayed or rubbed on each time a dog or cat is walked or left outside. Once the oils are applied, ticks will automatically drop off if they come into contact with your pet’s fur.

Tick treatments are made of a liquid insecticide that is dabbed onto the pet between the shoulder blades. Natural animal oils distribute this insecticide and it will kill ticks, their larvae and eggs if it comes into contact with them.

Tick-proofing your Lawn

Although you can tick-proof your lawn to a certain extent, there is no guarantee that it will be 100% effective. However, there are things you can do to greatly minimize any tick infestation, and drastically cut down on ticks being on your property.

  • Cut down all tall grasses and keep your lawn mowed and manicured.
  • If you live next to a woodland, make a 3-foot wide mulch or gravel break between your lawn and woods.
  • Keep all play equipment in sunny locations.
  • Stack lumber neatly, and remove any old furniture or trash from lawn areas.
  • Use a tick spray to cover the grass, patio, outdoor furniture, fences and the like. Although there are chemical sprays that will kill ticks, if you have kids and pets, a natural type of tick spray is the best option.

Ticks and tick-borne diseases are a natural part of having pets. If you keep your pet primarily inside, you greatly limit their exposure to ticks. But if they go outside, either on walks, leashed out in the back yard or have a external shelter, kennel or house where they rest, the chances are that you and your pet will come into contact with a tick or two.


About the Author

Mary Nielsen is a passionate dog lover, blogger, and part-time music teacher. She started MySweetPuppy.net to share her ups and downs of being a pet parent to a bunch of adorable mutts. When she is not playing with them or teaching, you can find her experimenting in the kitchen.

Pet Spotlight: Meet Princess

Princess is DAWS royalty! This adorable, 2 year-old Calico is a big girl with a tiny little voice, but that doesn’t stop her from ruling her kingdom. Princess was surrendered with her sister, Minnie, because their owner had too many kitties. While Princess and Minnie wait for new families to call their own, they are showing off just how sweet and friendly they are. Princess loves to  play and is also happy to soak up the sun while bird-watching outside. If you are ready to welcome royalty into your life, Princess is ready to rule your roost!

DAWS Cat Whisperer: Meet Adriane

Every day, the cats in the DAWS cattery spend time with a very special person—DAWS own “cat whisperer.” Adriane Lechner is the Cattery Supervisor, and she creates a special bond with the cats that temporarily call DAWS home. She connects with them in a way that many others can’t, bringing the most shy and temperamental cats out of their shells so that one day they can find their forever homes. In honor of Adopt-a-Cat month, we wanted to honor the woman who truly makes a difference in the lives of the cats at DAWS.

DAWS: How long have you been working at DAWS?

Adriane: 10 ½ years

DAWS: What brought you to DAWS?

Adriane: I hated my prior job. I worked in retail, and learned pretty quickly that was NOT where I wanted to be.

DAWS: What are your primary responsibilities at DAWS?

Adriane: Managing the cattery. That would include day-to-day tasks such as feeding, cleaning, medicating, socializing, evaluating, and monitoring daily health of the cats as well as overarching duties such as intakes, inventories, donations, emails. I have my hands into everything!

DAWS: What do you find most rewarding about your job?

Adriane: My strongest talent is reading into cat behaviors and being able to adjust to their needs as best as I can. Sometimes, I can get really detailed with this, from understanding the bed a cat prefers to their placement within the room.

DAWS: Anyone who knows you says you are a cat whisperer. What are some of the ways that you connect with the cats in the cattery?

Adriane: As an introvert, I tend to avoid human contact as much as possible. This has lead me to develop a greater connection with animals, and cats specifically are what I’ve had most of my life. I’m with them 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and in that time they tell me quite a lot through observation alone. I make it my priority to make their stay at DAWS as stress free as possible and therefore becoming more adoptable.

DAWS: Do you have a special story about a cat that has been in our shelter that really touched your heart?

Adriane: I have too many of these! From Suzie to Buttercup to Reed, Mama Mustache (Loretta Lynn), Gem to Taco (Carissa) to Waffles and many, many more.

DAWS: Do you have a favorite cat in the cattery now? What is so special about that cat?

Adriane: A majority of my favorite cats have been donned the nickname “Monkey”. It’s usually reserved for younger, bratty tuxedo females. Waffles was my last monkey, but I await my next one!

DAWS: What would you like everyone to know about shelter cats/about adopting cats?

Adriane: The most difficult cats are the most rewarding. I have nothing but high praise for those who see through their tough exteriors and socialize and adopt some of our harder cases.

DAWS: What inspires you about working for DAWS?

Adriane: I always look forward to what kinds of personalities we may find from the animals we can help next. I’m here for all of them! ♥

Pet Spotlight: Meet Daffodil

Daffodil is a shy gal who is learning that things at DAWS might just be alright. She was quite scared when she first arrived at the shelter, hunkering down in the corner of her kennel, curled up in a ball. She was not interested in engaging with any of the humans that came by her, but she was interested in the dogs that they often had at their sides. After having had some time to settle in a bit, our Dog Program Chair and Dog Trainer got the chance to evaluate her. She’s a sweet girl, who is just finding it a bit difficult to adjust to her new surroundings. None the less, she loves to play with her canine companions. She has a list of friends with whom she loves to romp in the yard. With their help, she is coming out of her shell and is even getting pets and love from the humans who arrange her play dates. She runs and chases her pals, plays with toys, and stops for a quick treat and a pet from the volunteers. Daffodil even flirts with her new “boyfriend,” Amos, who she is hoping to get to play with one day. Her sweet demeanor is shining through, and we know that one day a patient family (hopefully with a doggie pal already at home) will come along and give her a chance for a forever home.

How to Tell if Your Cat Likes You

Everyone knows that cats are very independent and can be quite aloof; not everyone knows why though. Cats are solitary hunters as opposed to pack animals, so they aren’t forced to forge relationships for security. This self reliance allows them to be more particular about displaying affection. Cats can also be a little more subtle in the ways they show affection than other pets, so it can be easy to miss.

Cats show affection in a few different ways. If she rubs her cheeks against you she is claiming you, but if she head butts you it is purely out of affection. Kneading and purring is a good indicator that she really cares about you. Love bites are another sign that your cat digs you, as long as they are gentle and not legitimate bites, that is. Your cat might also show that she adores you by bringing you gifts in the form of small rodents or birds that she catches.

Earning the trust of your cat may take a long time but is well worth the wait. Some behaviors that demonstrate this trust include snoozing in your lap, exposing her belly to you, or engaging in play. Another indicator of trust is sustained eye contact coupled with slow blinks. This shows that she trusts you will not attack while her eyes are closed. If you slow blink back at her it will show you trust her too.

If you want your cat to become more affectionate towards you there are ways to strengthen your bond. When you are petting your cat talk in a gentle voice, make slow movements and know when to stop. If her fur starts twitching, her eyes dilate and her tail starts swishing she is overstimulated which quickly leads to annoyance. Make sure to give your cat the space that she craves; let her have a safe zone where she can retreat. Invite your cat to sleep on your bed for some late night cuddles, and it will accelerate the bonding process. People say that the fastest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach but that is also true of cats. Reinforce your bond with her by being the hand that feeds her, eventually she’ll start nuzzling and cuddling.

Written by Elizabeth Boluch

Your Fundraising at Work: Meet Rowdy & Isabella

Rowdy and Isabella are a bonded brother and sister pair who love being together. These eight year-old Min-Pins had an owner, but one day that owner abandoned them in a hotel where they were staying. Without a family or home, the pair was brought to a high-kill shelter in Kentucky where their fate was uncertain. Seeing how friendly they were, the shelter worked with DAWS to give them a chance at a new, happier forever. 

Because they are a bonded pair, DAWS is looking to ensure that Rowdy and Isabella are not separated. That means a special family has to come along that is willing to take two dogs instead of one. We know it will happen, but it will take a little bit longer than usual. Until then, DAWS will provide the care and love that Rowdy and Isabella need, while ensuring that they know they will never be abandoned again.

When you fundraise for DAWS in support of our 28th Annual Walk for Animals, you help make a happier forever a possibility for hundreds of cats and dogs in need. Just $100 raised makes a world of difference to animals like Rowdy and Isabella.

You can help us make a difference in the lives of animals. Join us at the 28th Annual Walk for Animals. Together, we can save lives!

Register and start fundraising today!

Your Fundraising Efforts at Work: Meet Fox

Fox and four of his furry friends had been left behind in a house that was going to be sold. The real estate agent selling the property was looking to remove the five cats by whatever means possible. In trying to save them from an uncertain future, DAWS intake coordinators relied on the real estate agent’s assessment of the cats and took them in without a thorough evaluation. As it turns out, Fox and his friends were not all so fond of humans.

Fox spent most of his time in his early days at DAWS hunkered down in a covered cat condo inside of his cage, not letting anyone touch him. Staff members covered his hiding spot with blankets to give him a sense of security while he settled in. As he became more accustomed to his surroundings, staff and volunteers began to socialize with him using string toys that he could swat from a distance. Their efforts have paid off, and slowly, but surely Fox is beginning to come out of his shell.


Fox has made great progress since first arriving at DAWS. He is venturing out of his cage, watching other cats play from a distance and meowing in response to their actions. He is beginning to accept pets from volunteers, even purring in response to the attention. With patience, dedication, and love, Fox will gain more confidence and become more comfortable in his surroundings. We know that he will come to understand that humans aren’t so bad after all, and one day he will find a loving family and a forever home.

DAWS would not be able to care for animals like Fox without the support of our generous donors and fundraisers. When you commit to fundraising for DAWS as part of our Walk for Animals, you can give animals like Fox a chance for the happiness they deserve.

YOU can play a role in creating happy endings for more animals in need. Together with YOU, we can make a difference in the lives of animals. Join us on June 11 and Walk for Animals!

Register for the Walk for Animals and start fundraising today.

Your Fundraising Efforts at Work: Meet Tessa

The 28th Annual Walk for Animals is coming on June 11, 2017. The Walk has always been a fun-filled day for families to come together and celebrate their love for animals. The event is also an opportunity for everyone to demonstrate their commitment to animal welfare by fundraising to support DAWS. We hope that everyone will join in the fundraising, because every dollar raised makes a difference in the lives of animals—animals like Tessa.

Tessa has already been through a lot in her short life. She’s had puppies, become homeless, and made a long journey to a new state in hopes of finding happiness with a loving family. When Tessa arrived at DAWS, it was clear that she would make a family very happy one day. Her sweet demeanor, happy-go-lucky attitude, endless spunk, and absolutely adorable little face make her irresistible. But finding a home for Tessa was put on hold when her heartworm test came back positive. Tessa was facing another challenge that was standing in the way of a happy “forever” with a family of her own.

Our dedicated clinic staff assessed Tessa’s condition, ensured she was stable, and then initiated treatment. During heartworm treatments, dogs need to be restricted from exercise because physical exertion increases the rate at which heartworms cause damage in the heart and lungs. This was difficult for Tessa, who loves to romp and play. After one of her short walks outside to “do her business,” Tessa became ill. Concerned volunteers knew the possible side-effects of heartworm treatments and took her to Newtown Veterinary Specialists for emergency care. She recovered but spent the rest of her time being treated for heartworms in our own clinic to ensure she would have the best chance for recovery without complications.

Through it all, Tessa remained a sweet and happy-go-lucky girl. Now that her treatment is completed, she is finally ready for the next chapter in her life—going home with a loving family.

DAWS would not be able to care for animals like Tessa without the support of our generous donors and fundraisers. When you commit to fundraising for DAWS as part of our Walk for Animals, you can give animals like Tessa, the chance for the happiness they deserve.

We are certain that Tessa’s story will have a happy ending. YOU can play a role in creating happy endings for more animals in need. Together with YOU, we can make a difference in the lives of animals!

Register for the Walk for Animals and start fundraising today.




Pet Spotlight: Meet Dixie

Sweet Dixie is a three year-old Retriever mix. She’s a sweet girl from Kentucky whose family had to move, and they couldn’t take her with them. Now Dixie is at DAWS, but she’s hoping it won’t be too long before she finds a nice family to bring her home. Dixie is a little nervous when first meeting people, but it doesn’t take long for her to warm up. In fact, she really loves affection, and she’s happy to snuggle up and cuddle with you to show her love. She just needs a little extra time to get to know you.  Dixie’s heart is big and full of love to give. Would you open up your heart to her?

Exercising with Your Dog

We all know that exercise is the key to a healthy lifestyle but we seldom think about how true that is for animals. The epidemic of obesity has spread to our furry friends; in fact, as many as 50% of American pets are overweight. Besides the obvious benefit of weight loss, exercise can help our pets in other areas too. Exercise has been proven to reduce blood pressure and can even cut down on destructive behavior. Being active increases metabolism, muscle tone and bone density, and dogs that exercise regularly live longer lives and suffer less from the symptoms of arthritis as they age.

Dogs need anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours of daily exercise to be healthy and happy. If you have a dog that is content being a couch potato even thirty minutes of brisk walking can be sufficient. Active breeds however, need lots of exercise. Some indicators that your dog needs more action in his life include agitation, restless pacing and destructive behavior. Since our pets need so much exercise it is a good opportunity to join in and get active ourselves!

We can’t exactly hit the gym with our four legged friends but there are plenty of other activities in which to participate with our pets. Some options are pretty obvious, such as walking and jogging. With enough advanced leash training, dogs can even accompany us as we cycle or skate. Some other standard fare includes hiking and swimming, which is a great option for aging pets since it is easier on the joints. Playing fetch and frisbee are good choices, as well as going to the dog park, just be sure you squeeze in some lunges instead of just standing around. Agility training is a great source of exercise and provides mental stimulation for your pooch. You can find soccer balls for dogs they can push around with their paws and snouts. If you get bored of the usual activities you can even try finding a freestyle dance or dog yoga class.


Before starting an exercise regimen there are some things to consider. It’s a sensible idea to make a trip to the vet to ensure that your pet is able to exercise. The vet will screen for heart and lung problems and will check to make sure there are no musculoskeletal issues to consider. Your vet will also help you determine what type of an exercise regimen is right for your dog.

When starting a new routine it’s a good idea to start off slow. Begin with ten minutes a day and gradually work up to a longer time. It is crucial not to let your dog overdo it, bear in mind that dogs don’t have sweat glands so they overheat faster. To prevent overheating it is preferable to exercise early or late in the day and to keep your dog hydrated with portable water systems. Be vigilant in watching for signs of dehydration and overheating. These signs include excessive panting, staggering, confusion and weakness.

Exercising is a good decision and exercising with your dog is an even better one. The buddy system has proven to yield better results than going solo. It’s a great way to strengthen the bonds between you and your pet. With so many different activities, you are bound to find something that you both love.

Written by Elizabeth Boluch